City Pays Protection Money to Stop Serial Litigant

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Like California's "Unfair Competition Law," a favorite of consumers outraged by such things as sailors fraudulently marketing crunchberry-flavored cereal and soap that did not attract women as allegedly promised, disability-access laws are also frequently misused. Access for the disabled is a Good Thing, but many lawsuits are filed by people looking to make a quick buck based on some technical violation that isn't harming anyone. Those cases don't help the disabled and cost businesses a lot of money to fight. But Yuba City, California, has taken a stand with regard to one serial lawsuit-filer.

Its stand is that it will pay the guy $15,000 to stop filing lawsuits.

According to CBS13 (Sacramento), the plaintiff's lawyer in question is "notorious" in Yuba City for filing frivolous lawsuits. The report doesn't give examples, and "frivolous" could just be the defendants' position. But the fact that in exchange for $15,000 the lawyer has agreed not to file any more lawsuits within Yuba City limits (or "Yuba City city limits," I guess) does not suggest to me that he is especially committed to justice for the disabled of Yuba City.

Or maybe he has already achieved all necessary justice within the city and considers this a "bonus" for a job well done.

Local business owners were said to be "relieved" that the man will no longer be hounding them and the city appeared satisfied that it had resolved a "problematic" situation. Then the reporter went and ruined it by asking the uncomfortable question, "What if someone else comes in and tries to pull the same thing?" Well, that's not going to happen.

"Unfortunately that will probably happen," said the city's economic-development manager. "We are definitely not here to be a bank for some of these advocates to continue to sue the city," he continued, "but in this case … it's in the best financial interest of the city, and we don't plan on doing it again." (As he spoke, huge plumes of dust could be seen along the roads leading to Yuba City.)

The manager did say that they had their "fingers crossed [that] our local businesses are making the improvements," obviously meaning improvements necessary to comply with the law and not get sued by the plaintiffs' lawyers who are on their way there right now. That could mean, of course, that there are material improvements that do still need to be made to ensure access for the disabled, or that a bunch of trivial changes are required to deprive somebody of an excuse for a lawsuit. What is for sure is that Yuba City's plan not to pay any more protection money is about to be tested big time.